|Henry Burrows by Alex Service |
Saints’ supporters were intrigued to find that the club (according to the St. Helens Newspaper on 4th January 1921) had “practically completed their negotiations with two well-known rugby union players from the north and it is hoped they may be available against York on Saturday.” Alas this was not to be the case. In actual fact three players from rugby union took the field for the Saints during the home game against Hunslet. They were given pseudonyms. There was the right wing pairing of McLarighan and Johnson, together with Donaldson at stand off. As it happened the two guys in the threequarter line made excellent debuts, in what became one of the most talked about games at Knowsley Road since the resumption after the First World War. Their names were revealed in the St. Helens Newspaper in the match report. Instead of McLarighan and Johnson read Burrows and Ashburner. “Ashburne [sic] and Burrows Smarten Saints up,” was the headline on 25th January 1921. Burrows on the right wing was: “a speed merchant, who can swerve beautifully.” The report continued: “Without shouting them to the skies on the strength of a first display, both he and the centre gave a perfectly satisfactory exhibition in a game which is quite new to them and where the conditions were against them and that is all that could be expected.” Henry Burrows scored a try against Hunslet, too, albeit under a different name, but the game itself had a brilliant finish. Even though Burrows and his pal Ashburner were not directly involved in the final act, it is more than worthy of mention. Let us return to Premier in the St. Helens Newspaper: “Time slowly crept on. McLoughlin tried to drop a goal and failed. Asshburne [sic] tried the same thing and also failed. One point behind and four minutes to go. So near and yet so far from victory. Could they do it? Straining every nerve, the Saints fought desperately, but hopelessly against the inevitable defeat. One minute from time a Hunslet man ballooned the ball and a the crowd roared as they saw Peter Molyneux setting himself in the middle of a ruck of opponents to make a mark. With splendid judgement, he made a mark, just in the nick of time for the referee raised his whistle to blow for time. Carefully placing the ball McLoughlin was entrusted with the last shot in the leather. The crowd stood breathless. The position was a long way out , much further than McLoughlin cares for, but the powerful wind might carry the leather over. A short run and away sped the ball straight for the goal. A yell arose to die away again as the ball appeared to be falling short of the crossbar but a kindly wind lifted the leather for the last few yards and the ball slipped over the crossbar by the margin of inches. The cheering rose again and two Saints rose McLoughlin shoulder high while on the far side, the new wingman, Burrows, could be seen leaping up with as much delight as if he had been playing for the club for years. The whistle blew before Hunslet could kick off and the game was won.”
The winger whose name was McLarighan (who was really Burrows) scored a try in the match too. So what do we know about him? According to the Rugby League Signing on Registers, his address was 72 Walford Road, Birmingham. When he signed for the Saints, he lived in the club house at 33 Oxford Street, before moving to the West Park area, presumably in digs. Ashburner was with him. Henry was a permanent fixture after he signed, for the rest of the 1920-21 campaign, yet the rest of his career at Knowsley Road is sporadic. He played 12 times in that first season, scoring 3 tries. He made three appearances during the next campaign and then there is a lull, until he makes five starts during 1924-25, scoring two tries. This could have been a result of the nature of his job, or injury. We just do not know. We do know that on his day, he was quick and a good finisher and that his last match for the Saints was a replayed Lancashire Cup first round tie at home to Widnes on 15th October 1924. St.Helens won 19-5.
Henry did not sign for the 1925-26 campaign. He started his employment life as an apprentice tailor. In 1939, he was still in St Helens living with his wife Elizabeth in Crowley Hill Lane. His job at that time was as a Government Traveller in Agricultural aproducts. His wife ran a shop trading in Poultry and animal foodstuffs. He died in Warwick in March 1976, aged 80. If anyone has any further details about him to help us, please get in touch.